Thursday was the last day of summer and Friday was the first day of fall. What better way to mark the change in seasons than with a long bike ride to the Shore and one last chance to wade into the ocean?
The inspiration for this ride was NJDOT’s High Point to Cape May route, which runs 238 miles from the northwest corner of the state down to its southeastern point. Some people are crazy enough to ride a version of this in one day to mark the longest day of the year, but we were only aiming for a little over 60 miles each way (also known as a metric century), starting and ending off that route.
120+ miles in two days? Call us crazy for doing even that if you like. But I see it as good training for that big East Coast Greenway ride next month.
We picked Batso Village as our starting point because it was a convenient meeting point for the three of us, coming from two parts of the state — and the people running Wharton State Forest would let us leave our cars overnight. Our destination was the North Wildwood home of Mary Jo and Bill, good friends of one rider. Thank you again for hosting us … and for feeding this famished rider!
Thursday was a beautiful sunny day with a wind from the north, so when we reached Mays Landing, it wasn’t a hard decision to head east for the Shore and then let wind keep pushing us along. We quickly discovered that our route to the beach was the same that the MS City to Shore ride would be using two days later. Ocean City was our first beach town, proudly boasting its bike-friendly credentials as soon as we crossed the modern bridge with sweeping views of the Great Egg Harbor Bay and used by plenty of pedestrians getting in their steps.
We rolled through several beach towns, each with their own personality (some clearly for weeklong party rentals, others with fancy second homes), all with plenty of construction and often separated by old two-lane toll bridges (bikes exempt, yay). The joys of off-season riding: no traffic keeping you from quickly getting from one distant traffic light to another. The downside: what’s open is limited — and by that I really mean ice cream shops.
Given that Hurricane Sandy wasn’t that long ago, it was disconcerting to see how many homes aren’t elevated on these narrow spits of land. Condos have gone up above marshes on the inland side of bays, which just seems to b begging for trouble. And you don’t need a hurricane to hit to do damage, as we discovered in North Wildwood, where just the waves from Hurricane Jose took out much of the sand dunes a few days before we arrived. Pumping sand back onto the beach every year must just be something a town budgets for.
Sunny day flooding here?
On Friday, we opted not to fight the headwinds along the coast and quickly made our way inland, picking up the more direct High Point to Cape May route. The roads felt a little busier, though with generous shoulders. I wondered if someone who biked the area regularly would have picked out some quieter (if longer) stretches, or whether the smallest roads would have turned sandy. Regardless, good training for traffic in the Carolinas.
The day might win for strangest road trash ever: a wetsuit. Was it flung out of a car or pickup truck in anger? Or did it bounce out of a truck bed or from the roof of a car? It wasn’t something we could pick up (unless we wanted to wear it), so we just whizzed by. Hopefully someone went back to retrieve it (and the plaid shirt nearby). We also passed on stopping for what appeared to be a bike lock, figuring that, too, was of little use to us.
What else did we find?
North Wildwood was getting ready for its Irish Weekend, described as the largest Irish festival on the East Coast and attracting about 200,000 visitors. Even if you’re not Irish, you want to pretend that you are and hang something green from the house, just to keep away the drunks. Glad we missed the crowds.
Spotted along the route:
A hat tip to the Revolution and an unusual 9/11 memorial in Mays Landing (have you ever seen one with photos from all three sites?):